Click over to Axios and read the whole thing, as it runs only a few sentences. I’m trying to imagine how I’d react to it if I were a Republican senator intent on voting to acquit. I feel like I wouldn’t have reacted … great.
“I take an oath before God as enormously consequential,” he wrote in one excerpt explaining how his faith guided his decision.
“Corrupting an election to keep oneself in office is perhaps the most abusive and disruptive violation of one’s oath of office that I can imagine.”
He also said he was prepared to be denounced by some and that “my vote is an act of conviction” that followed his conscience.
Do senators normally send each other notes explaining their intention to vote a certain way? Granted, this was a big vote and Romney was the lone dissenter. But it’s not like his vote was about to send the caucus down to defeat on something. They were going to win on acquittal no matter what. So, why the note?
It reads to me like a rebuke. There’s a heavy emphasis on how his sworn duty to God and to his conscience compels his vote to remove, as well as a line about how what Trump did is gravely serious. The closing line feels like sarcasm under the circumstances: “We have come to different conclusions, fellow senators, but I trust we have all followed the dictates of our conscience.” There’s no way Romney really believes that. He knew that “centrists” like Susan Collins and Cory Gardner were a lock to acquit from day one, and he knows why.
Was he rebuking them? Or am I reading this all wrong and what he was actually trying to do was maybe discourage them from joining in on the inevitable pile-on by Trump fans everywhere? I felt I had a religious duty to vote my conscience, he’s telling them. Are you really going to demagogue me for that?
I don’t know what to make of it. If it’s a rebuke then it’s like a declaration of war on the caucus, implying that they’re gutless hacks who didn’t have the stones to do what he did. If it’s not a rebuke then it feels unnecessary. He’d already done two interviews and was preparing to deliver a floor speech justifying his vote. He didn’t need to explain to them separately what his reasoning was. They could have just watched the speech.
Anyway, the AP is already chatting up Utah voters for reaction to his vote and discovering that they’re divided. Er, what did they expect to find?
Shelly Cluff, a 33-year-old stay-at-home mother in suburban Riverton, is a Republican who’s never been a fan of Trump. She was pleasantly surprised at Romney’s stance.
“I was greatly impressed by his integrity, his willingness to put so much on the line in order not to violate his conscience, in order to stand with a clear conscience before God,” Cluff said.
Still, she knows that not all her neighbors feel the same, including several who didn’t vote for him in 2016 but have since come around.
“I’ve been taken aback by how many people have been really upset and disappointed in Mitt Romney,” she said.
We’ll get a poll in the next few days. A majority of Utahns will disapprove of his vote, I’m sure, but for starters he should have strong Democratic support for it. That’s 30 percent or so of the electorate based on the share of the vote that went to his Democratic opponent in the 2018 Senate race. Assuming overwhelming Republican opposition, he’s probably still looking at something like 40 percent overall in favor. Coincidentally, when the Deseret News polled Utah on impeachment a few weeks ago, they found 39 percent at least somewhat in favor of removal and 53 percent at least somewhat opposed. That’s the baseline Romney starts from. We’ll see if it helps him any that he’s stressed repeatedly today how important faith and duty were to his deliberations.
Maybe the contrast in tone with this guy will help too:
Congratulations @realDonaldTrump. I’m looking forward to your next five years in office. Those who voted to remove you were wrong. Very wrong.
— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) February 5, 2020
In lieu of an exit question, here’s Trump’s first post-impeachment shot at Romney, one of many to come. I’m pretty sure this clip is old. It looks familiar, especially the odd reference to Romney as “slick.”